Indigenous communities abandoned during the pandemic

The indigenous peoples were abandoned by the government throughout the entire Michoacán territory from the Purépecha Plateau to the Sierra-Costa.

Pandemic. Aquila.- “We see that in large cities support moves very quickly, even the police are distributing food packages, but outside, in the communities there is not the same treatment, frankly I see a lot of indifference with what happens to us,” he said. José Agustín Ruiz, in charge of order in the San Benito community.

The feeling that the indigenous peoples of the state were abandoned by the three levels of government is present throughout the entire Michoacan territory from the Purépecha Plateau to the Sierra-Costa.

In the community of Zirahuén, for example, the population itself had to buy face masks, antibacterial gel and equipment for the local clinic that was abandoned by the authorities, who limited themselves to handing out informational posters.

The lack of support was made more visible through a joint statement by human rights defense organizations, who demanded that a comprehensive policy of aid to indigenous peoples be proposed in the face of the scenario presented by the new SARS-CoV-2 virus.

“We call on state authorities to immediately and unconditionally provide food support to the people of indigenous towns who request it,” they noted in the document published on June 19, 2020.

The organizations denounced that dozens of indigenous inhabitants did not receive some of the 280,000 packs of food supplies promised by the Michoacán government, since they could not prove that they belonged to a vulnerable population.

In the Food Plan signed by the governor, Silvano Aureoles Conejo, they consider as vulnerable groups only COVID-19 patients, older adults, pregnant and lactating women, as well as people with disabilities, people with chronic degenerative diseases and those who have lost their income due to mandatory confinement.

This closes the door for those who seek support from indigenous communities, despite the fact that they suffer similar problems such as chronic degenerative diseases and the loss of their sources of employment.

“The aforementioned Food Plan lacks a human rights approach and the necessary differentiated approach to meet the needs of the indigenous population,” the defense organizations denounced.

This demand was signed by the Mexican Institute for Community Development (IMDEC), the Fray Francisco de Vitoria AC Human Rights Center, the Human Rights Solidarity Network and the National Network of Civil Human Rights Organizations “All rights for all and all ”(DTT Network).

All these defense organizations have also become allies of communities such as Nahuatzen, Comachuén, Sevina and Arantepacua, providing them with training to manage infections independently of what the state and federal health authorities have done.

San Benito

In communities like Sevina and Comachuén, government support only consisted of the delivery of informational posters, a pack of antibacterial gel and children’s pantries, however, other communities such as San Benito, in the municipality of Los Reyes, have not received even that.

“It was not possible for us to sanitize the streets and public spaces because the community does not have the necessary resources, it is necessary to have access to resources that help us fight infections,” said José Agustín Ruiz, in charge of order in the San Benito community.

When the Government of Michoacán decreed the Mandatory Confinement period, the San Benito authorities held a community assembly in which, on their own initiative, brought doctors to inform the population about the COVID-19 disease.

“The San Benito community opted for preventive measures in public places such as the main square, the community’s chanca, the mills and the shops to avoid crowds of people,” said José Agustín Ruiz.

All the measures were announced through the community loudspeakers which broadcast news and recommendations at 10:00 p.m. in order for the population to be informed about the consequences of the new coronavirus.

In the absence of the Ministry of Health or the Government of Michoacán, indigenous populations have had to generate their own formulas to combat the pandemic, for example, in San Benito it is recommended that migrants not visit the community and if they do, stay one week isolated.

“We have registered about 150 people from the community who live in Monterrey, Guadalajara, Colima and the United States,” said Agustín Ruiz, “we strongly ask them not to come, to take care of their families and take care of themselves ”.

However, they have not been able to close their doors because most of the inhabitants work in the nervy town of Los Reyes or in the countryside and if they take more drastic measures they would affect the family economy of its 1,700 inhabitants.

San Benito is an indigenous community that, since January 2019, seeks to access its direct budget – as indigenous communities have done in Nahuatzen, Quiroga and Tingambato – an idea that has only been reinforced by the pandemic.

“The governments, the authorities, do not care about us because they act in a municipality and the priority is not the small communities, the same happens with the state government and the federal government that are always far from us and do not support us to move forward, that is why today more than ever we see the need to demand what corresponds to us ”, concluded the person in charge of order.

Santa María Ostula

250 kilometers south of the town of Los Reyes is the region of the Sierra-Costa de Michoacán, where the native Nahua communities of the state settle, there the situation is similar for thousands of indigenous inhabitants of towns like Santa María Ostula in the municipality of Aquila.

“We are fine, no cases have been registered in the community. I believe that sufficient preventive measures were taken by completely closing the entrance of national and foreign tourism, also to the community members who were working outside the community, through their families were invited to stay until further notice, and this has been maintained, ”reported community spokespersons.

Ostula is governed by a system of customs and habits, a form of government which allows the indigenous people to make decisions even above the municipal government of Aquila, its own inhabitants monitor that sanitary measures are met and monitor the territory through their Community Police, even the National Guard requires permission to enter the territory and is prohibited from patrolling it.

After the expulsion of the Knights Templar cartel in 2014 and after the murder of the child Hidilberto Reyes García at the hands of the Mexican Army on July 19, 2015, the Nahua community members took control of security through the Community Police which is now in charge of monitoring the advance of the new coronavirus.

Just this August 10, 2020, the community began with the second stage of prevention of COVID-19 through new measures for the Nahua community members, these include the mandatory use of face masks for all people, whether local or foreign, the prohibition of tourism and postpone public events throughout the community of just 1,000 inhabitants.

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